How to Save Money & Eat Healthy (on a Budget)
An internal debate rages every time I go to the grocery store.
Do I want to save money? Or do I want to eat as healthy as possible? Conventional or organic? Simple or processed? There are so many decisions! It’s overwhelming! AHHHHH!
I mean, is it possible (or easy) to eat healthy on a budget? Can we feed our families good wholesome foods, without breaking the bank?
Or prevent becoming one of the 133 million people in this country suffering from chronic illness? That is forty percent of the population and growing at a disturbing rate! Which, we learned from my husband’s Chrohn’s disease, can be managed or healed entirely with food.
Tips to Eat Healthy on the Cheap
It is possible! Here are 17 easy ways to keep more money in your wallet, while also providing good healthy food for your family.
1. Meal Plan
I’ve often confessed that without a meal plan we’d eat popcorn for dinner. It’s too much work to come up with a meal idea at 4:00pm!
So, think ahead for the week, write down (at least) your healthy dinners, and know what you’ll need to pull out ahead to produce a nutritious meal. A plan makes ALL the difference!
2. Shop Smart
Our health BEGINS at the grocery store!
It’s why I struggle with our nearby discount store ALDI. Aldi is cheap and there are unique treasures to be found, but I also eat more junk food after shopping there. I finally realized it’s because you have to walk through the cookie aisle to get to the produce. Well played, Aldi. Well played.
Therefore, consider if there are stores that lead to more temptation for you than others, and shop accordingly. Once in your store, stay out of the middle as much as possible. In there lurks the chips, cookies, and other junk that gives no nutritional value. Shop the perimeter where you’ll find your whole foods. Remember, the fewer ingredients the better!
3. Waste Less
According to the American Chemistry Council, the average American throws out $640 worth of food every year. (That’s $3,200 in five years – a nice vacation with little effort!)
So, become more intentional about your food. First, remember that the expiration date is a suggestion, not a rule. Use your own judgment when deciding what’s not good anymore.
Other great ways to waste less include rotating leftovers, freezing extras, cleaning out the fridge at the end of the week, and meal planning based on WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE before buying more at the store.
4. Be Strategic About Shopping
Impulse buys ruin any good shopping trip.
So, it’s best to eliminate them as much as possible. My husband will do our Costco grocery trip after work because he’s in a hurry. At that time the store is busy, and he does a great job of sticking to the list and heading home. There’s no time for perusing and picking additional items up.
Another great way to keep impulse buys down? Shop online! If you’ve shopped groceries online, you know it’s much easier to stick to your list.
5. Cook at Home
Possibly the best way to eat healthy food on a budget?
Cook at home (from whole ingredients) as often as possible. This is made easier by having a meal plan (see tips #1) and having a few SUPER easy meals that you can make at a moment’s notice. In our house, a chicken sausage and pepper skillet or frozen fish do the trick!
6. Make Your Own Freezer Meals
Yes, it’s best to cook at home. BUT, you also shouldn’t have to cook every night of the week! That’s just exhausting…
So, find a healthy recipe, double it, and freeze the extra portion for another night! I love doing this with shepherd’s pie, pot pie, pizza crusts, and soups. Or do a healthy freezer meal party or swap with friends!
7. Don’t Shop Hungry
Raise your hand if you’ve ever racked up a huge grocery bill because you were starving?
We’ve all done it. Everything looks amazing when your belly’s empty. But, it results in a lot of questionable impulse buys. And again, our nutrition starts at the store! So, eat a filling snack or meal before heading out!
8. Shop Less
Every time you set foot in the store is another opportunity for billion-dollar marketing to suck you in. Minimize this by sticking to a strict rule that you only shop once a week. Not only will this save you money, but also lots of time!
If you run out of something, improvise, and use up what you have. A little creativity in the kitchen will teach you an entirely new set of skills.
9. Consider Healthy Frozen Foods
Frozen produce is often cheaper and just as healthy as its fresh counterparts. An extra benefit? No endless chopping!
We enjoy most of our side vegetables frozen because they’re easy to cook quickly on the stove. Think of broccoli, green beans, carrots, and cauliflower for your next trip!
10. Do a Spending Freeze
I did my first spending freeze last fall and was blown away by how much food I had in my house. Remember that $640 a year we throw away? This is a great way to get that money back in your pocket.
So, try a one-week spending freeze. Buy nothing or only a few fresh essentials and improvise with what you already have. You’ll be saving money and the environment at the same time!. And as long as your pantry has healthy items in it, your health will stay on track as well.
11. Buy Generic (But Beware)
Generic options are often just as good as the name brand for less cost.
HOWEVER – Sometimes the generic does indeed come with more preservatives. As always, check your ingredients before buying. If there’s no difference in the product, go with the cheaper generic option.
12. Stock up with Sales or Coupons
If you’re headed out to a store, check to see what healthy items are on sale. Then, make room in your budget to buy two or three of that item for later use! This method ensures you buy more of your food at a better price!
Additionally, coupons can be a great tool for saving money. But make sure you’re only using them for healthy products you already use and love.
13. Go Vegetarian or Occasionally Vegan
We recently watched the documentary Game Changer and were surprised by the crazy health benefits of a vegan diet (done correctly).
We have not switched to completely plant-based, but we do cook that way several times a week now. Which in turn, has DEFINITELY saved money.
Meat is often not only the most expensive item, but the one that takes longest to cook. So, surprisingly our meatless dishes have also been the fastest to put together!
14. Buy In-Season Produce
To keep costs down, purchase items that are naturally growing during each time of year. Check out this handy post, for a month-by-month guide to when fruits and vegetables are cheapest.
15. Buy in Bulk
Costco and Sam’s Clubs are incredible stores to save money on healthier goods. At Costco, we buy in bulk with lots of organic options (that are often cheaper than non-organic at other stores).
Then, if it’s a large snack item like apple chips, we’ll just divide it out into smaller bag portions for the kids to take to school.
See also: 50 Snacks for Healthy Kids
16. Purchase The Necessities First
If your budget is extremely tight, try this rule: before buying any junk food, make sure your fruits, vegetables, and meat are already in the cart. Use only the money left over to splurge on items that aren’t as healthy. This will limit the amount of processed food you’re picking up.
17. Start a Garden
Finally, an amazing way to eat healthy, in-season fruits and vegetables is to grow your own! Not only do you get to control what goes on them, but you ensure you’re eating fresh, nutrient-rich fare!
Something to Consider with Healthy Eating on a Budget
No one wants to go broke eating healthy. But look at it this way: what you “save” now by choosing cheap processed options is what you’ll pay later at the doctor’s office. And in how you feel going through every day of your one precious life.
So strive to eat healthy on a budget. Invest smartly in yourself and your family now, and ensure you live a long, beautiful, pain-free life.
What are your favorite ways to save money while eating healthy? Share below!
If you liked the tips above, watch below for how we use six of these ways in our home! And for ongoing health, happiness, and family ideas, check out my Instagram!
Other health articles to enjoy…
- 12 Quick Weeknight Crockpot Meals
- How to Be Healthier in 2020 (+3 Day Challenge)
- Simple Weeknight Dinners for a Healthy You